Panhandle graduation rates greatly improve despite pandemic

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–The past few years have been no easy task for panhandle students. First, they experienced Hurricane Michael and now a global pandemic. But despite all odds, the Florida Department of Education is reporting a drastic improvement in high school graduation rates.

Florida’s overall high school graduation rate has risen 3% in the past year. Locally, Bay County rose from 82.5% in 2019 to 88.5% in 2020.

“We love that but we know that it is artificially held up because of the last half of the year because of COVID,” said Bill Husfelt, the Superintendent for Bay District Schools.

While some would expect graduation rates to fall during a pandemic, that wasn’t the case. Husfelt says there are many reasons for that.

“Some of them didn’t have to pass the tests they normally have to pass, some didn’t complete courses the way they would normally complete them,” Husfelt said.

Last school year, the Florida D.O.E. preached for compassion.

“The state said ‘look be very lenient, in what you’re doing for these seniors to graduate’. We did not want to stop these seniors from graduating,” Husfelt said.

The Jackson County School District reported a similar trend. Since 2016, their graduation rate has risen by almost 20%.

“We took the opportunity to be very intentional towards the end of that year and make sure that what the state was looking at for our graduation rate was truly the kids that needed to be included in it,” said Jennifer See, the Director of Middle and Secondary Education for Jackson County Schools.

See believes the D.O.E.’s findings are a solid reflection of the district despite the fewer requirements.

“To be honest with you, that was only one avenue and that was only the assessment that must be passed so they still had to have the minimum GPA,” See said.

See believes their graduation rate will continue to improve.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that students are provided all those opportunities to meet graduation requirements,” See said.

To see the graduation rates of other districts in Northwest Florida, head to Florida High School Graduation Rates, 2019-20 (fldoe.org)

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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